Attention Readers– The following words just came out of The Boyfriend’s mouth: “This is the best mac and cheese you’ve ever made“. Yes, I’m telling the truth and, what’s more, I agree with him. For years now I have been on a never ending quest for a homemade macaroni and cheese that I actually like and had yet to be satisfied until this recipe. I’m sure my poor father’s heart has been broken many a time over the years because he loves homemade macaroni and cheese whereas I just never could get over the boxed kind. Luckily, I can tell you exactly why I don’t like homemade mac and cheese: cheddar cheese melts grainy. That’s it! I want my mac and cheese to be smooth and creamy, not grainy and stringy. My solution was discovered by wandering the Trader Joe’s cheese section for some gruyere for this recipe when I stumbled across Trader Joe’s Cheddar & Gruyere Melange. It melts like gruyere but tastes like cheddar and with this one cheese all of my mac and cheese problems were solved! Now add to this some sweet caramelized shallots and crisped up sage (The Boyfriend’s absolute favorite) and you’ve got yourself a near perfect mac and cheese dinner. The only negative? It does dirty up a whoooole lot of pots and pans, so only make this if you’re prepared for the clean up later.
Caramelized Shallot and Crispy Sage Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Cake, Batter & Bowl
Makes 2 entree servings, double if making for a family or if you want leftovers
- 1/2 pound orecchiette pasta
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup finely chopped shallots
- 1/2 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 Tablespoons butter + 1 Tablespoon butter, seperated
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups shredded Trader Joe’s Cheddar & Gruyere Melange (or 1 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar + 1 cup shredded Gruyere)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
- In a saute pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat; add the shallots and sugar, stirring frequently for 18 minutes until shallots are very soft and completely golden brown throughout. Add the garlic, stir for another minute, then set the pan aside for later use.
- In the meantime, bring a pot of water to boil and toss a little salt and olive oil into the water; cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and set aside.
- In a third pot (medium sized), melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk the flour in. Keep whisking until the flour-butter mixture turns golden brown, about one minute. (This is called a roux and the darker your roux the more nutty the flavor of your final dish will be.)
- Whisk the buttermilk and cream into the flour-butter mixture and bring the pot to a boil. (Adding milk to a roux makes it a bechamel sauce; look at all the French this recipe teaches you!) Once it reaches boiling, lower the heat and stir in the shredded cheese(s). Once melted and smooth, stir the salt, nutmeg and cayenne into the cheese sauce.
- In a small pan, melt the last tablespoon of butter. Once melted and hot, drop the chopped sage in, let it sizzle for 30 seconds or so, then turn off the heat.
- Combine pasta, cheese sauce, shallots and sage in a large bowl and mix until pasta is thoroughly coated and shallots and sage are evenly distributed. Enjoy!